Stewart is committed to community outreach
Class assignment evolves into thriving businessENTREPRENEUR NAGEL STEWART started his ground transportation company while completing his undergraduate degree at The UWI, Mona in 2006. The business grew from a class assignment he was required to complete and pitch for Social Policy and Development (SY39P), a course offered in the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Stewart had always dreamed of starting his own business, and used the capstone project and his knowledge of the transportation industry to develop a winning business plan for himself.
Stewart, who hails from a deep rural community in western Jamaica, resided at Taylor Hall where he was founder and first president of the Environmental Club and later founded and coordinated the ABC hall mentorship programme. At Taylor Hall, he was responsible for procuring ground transportation for students who were involved in field and other off-campus activities. He quickly recognised that there was a weakness in the transportation industry, arguing that it was treated more like a “hustling enterprise” rather than a legitimate business. He sought to change this culture by forming a company that would make transportation more accessible and affordable to the commuting public.
He was not daunted by the fact that he had no collateral nor that a number of financial institutions had turned him away. After completing his first degree, he worked briefly as a customer service representative at a telecoms company before resigning to immerse himself in his business. What started out informally as Half Price Express Tours later transitioned into Nation-Wide Express Tours, which he later incorporated as a business. He did not have a car or a driver’s licence at the time, neither did he own a commercial vehicle, but this did not faze Stewart. He started off outsourcing contractors, but had to abandon this strategy as it was not feasible. He needed his own fleet of vehicles to turn a profit.
Stewart sought his mother’s assistance to acquire a vehicle, but she became concerned when she discovered that he wanted to purchase a commercial carrier. She was adamant that this was not what she wanted for him or why she had sent him to university. Stewart said his family felt his business choice was a “menial” and “nonsensical” venture, but he clearly had a vision and would not tolerate any distractions.
He successfully persuaded his mother to review his business plan, and she reluctantly provided the funds with the understanding that he honour his monthly instalments. Stewart initially bought a small bus which had no engine. He subsequently acquired a used engine which turned out to be defective and ate away at his profits. His resourcefulness soon saw him purchasing a larger capacity carrier, which was stolen within six months. Fortunately, this vehicle was comprehensively insured, but this was a massive setback for the young entrepreneur who had to resort to outsourcing transportation services once again in order to resuscitate his business.
Through sheer determination Stewart purchased a much larger carrier, which came with its own challenges as it too had severe engine defects. Nevertheless, he went on to acquire two additional vehicles to meet the increasing demand for his services.
The business has since grown exponentially. Nation-Wide Express now owns a fleet of 17 vehicles and employs 31 people. It also has 52 contractors across Jamaica, providing transportation services in all parishes and major resort towns, including Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril. Stewart has offices in Kingston and Montego Bay and is currently in the process of setting up offices in the west end of Negril and on the south Coast.
In addition to running his business, Stewart also operates mentorship, homework and agricultural programmes to the tune of approximately $2 million annually. He is committed to community outreach, and has been impacting lives in Mona Commons, August Town, Papine and a number of other communities across the island through these programmes. Through his mentorship programme a number of young people have gone on to higher education and are studying at The UWI, Mona and the University of Technology, Jamaica. His team consists of a cadre of graduates and students who assist with facilitating the programme. Meanwhile, Stewart told UWIMONA Now that he intends to register Nation-Wide Mentorship Programmes as a foundation as he believes that good corporate citizenship builds a productive nation.
He also believes in discipline, sound fiscal management and good time management. Since the inception of his business he has pursued two master’s degrees at The UWI and the University of London respectively, and is currently a PhD candidate at The UWI, Mona.
Over the next two years, he plans to expand his business to include air and sea transportation within the region. Stewart’s strategy for success includes aggressive marketing and employing and equipping staff with essential skill sets such as customer service training, business management and financial prudence.